CORUNNA — The Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners Thursday voted to accept a settlement offer over an Open Meetings Act violation.
The board also tabled a vote to remove a Veteran Affairs Committee member.
According to minutes from the meeting available on the county website, the board moved into closed session (non-public) to “discuss a pending lawsuit,” during which they deliberated for approximately 45 minutes.
Following deliberations, the board voted 3-2 to accept a settlement offer. Commissioners Brandon Marks, Marlene Webster and Jeremy Root voted yes, and Commissioners Dan McMaster and Cindy Garber voted no. Commissioners Gary Holzhausen and John Plowman did not vote.
The Argus-Press has confirmed that as part of the settlement agreement, the county must acknowledge fault in having violated the Open Meetings Act. Other details are not yet available, since the settlement has not been finalized. The agreement must first be accepted by counsel for both parties, before it is scheduled for a hearing for final disposition before a presiding judge.
That lawsuit, filed by Owosso resident Nicole Ruggiero against the Shiawassee County Treasurer Selection Commission in October 2019, claimed the committee acted improperly in September 2019 by interviewing candidates and deliberating in closed session, and then conducting a secret ballot.
Each of those actions is prohibited by state law. The committee named Julie Sorenson to succeed Thomas Dwyer, who stepped down from the post in August 2019.
Former Shiawassee County Prosecutor Deana Finnegan, Probate Court Judge Thomas Dignan and County Clerk Caroline Wilson, who comprised the selection committee, were named as defendants in the lawsuit filed by Outside Legal Counsel attorney Philip Ellison on behalf of Ruggiero. The lawsuit was moved to Clinton County to avoid conflict of interest.
The committee in 2019 returned for another session after the original vote after The Argus-Press filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking interview transcripts and notes. The committee briefly discussed the candidates in public and conducted a new vote in public to name Sorenson as treasurer.
Also at Thursday’s meeting:
n The board voted 7-0 to indefinitely table a motion to remove Les Schneider from the county’s Veterans Affairs Committee after Garber made a motion, seconded by Plowman, to remove Schneider from the committee.
n The board also voted to approve the Public Defender’s Office to post and fill a vacancy. Public Defender’s Office head Doug Corwin confirmed Tuesday that assistant public defender Adam Pfeiffer is leaving to take a job with the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office, and his last day will be Friday. Corwin added that he has chosen a replacement, and their first day will be June 8.
n Another vote was conducted whether to approve the reclassification of Olga Quick from a juvenile caseworker to a senior juvenile caseworker. Commissioners Garber, Marks, Plowman and Webster voted yes; and Commissioners Holzhausen, McMaster and Root voted no.